Whenever I look at my stacks of journals I always imagine my sons looking at them after I’m dead saying, “What are we supposed to do with these?” The first reason is because there are so many of them. The second reason is because they can’t be sure whether they are my writing journals or personal diaries. Most of us don’t want to know our parents deepest secrets, especially if it will burst our “perfect” bubble of who we think they are. The thing is, I don’t know if I know the difference either. I write what I write. If I’m feeling blue, I write about that. If I’ve got an idea for a poem or story, I write about that. If I’m studying and an interesting fact sticks out in my mind, I jot it down. I carry my journals to classes and write notes in them. I carry my journals to the monastery and write prayers in them. I write my hopes, my dreams, my disappointments, my triumphs – I write! I don’t think about content. I do write dates and sometimes I write context, but mostly I just write. My journals include both private and public information and I really don’t worry about people reading them – which may only happen when I’m dead. I do think whoever reads them will think I’m absolutely as weird as they thought I was. But since we’ve been talking about journaling for personal change and to leave a family legacy, let’s discuss types of journals/diaries.
According to my friend Martin, there are three types of journals: (1) The Project Journal (2) The Life Journal and (3) The Daily Exercise Journal. The Project Journal is for ideas, details, and issues for a specific project like the stories you want to record for your children, or the novel you are working on. The Life Journal (Martin also calls it the Breathe Journal) is used to record personal experiences good or bad, things that bother you, venting , or something that means something to you like sights, sounds, relationships – in other words, personal stuff. I guest this is what most people call a diary. The Daily Exercise Journal is the place where you practice disciplines such as writing prompts, memorizing scripture, positive affirmations, and or honing your writing skills. Needless to say Martin is a very organized individual and I love that about him, but that’s just not me.
I’m one of those people who has more than one journal going at a time, but there are no demarcations in their content or style. I’ve used every thing from bound leather books to composition notebooks from Walmart. I carry something to write in at all times. Whether I’m at work, at the park, at church, or in the library, I record what’s important to me at the time. It simply doesn’t matter to me if it’s a personal thought or a business thought. What matters is what I want, think, or need is recorded, and I know where to find it when I need it. Once I start writing a story or a collection of poems – any writing with a real purpose – then I glean from these journal to form a designated content book. This is when I am building on a theme where continuity is important.
Now I know handwritten journals are becoming a thing of the past. Many people are keeping journals and even composing books electronically. There are journal and diary programs and apps out there to stimulate this kind of activity and that’s great. Just find a way to record your thoughts and experiences for yourself and posterity. Then call it whatever you want – your journal or your diary. The name is not important.